The following article was originally published in Issue 11 of inCiderJapan magazine.
In the residential suburb of Komae, Tokyo, on a corner about a ten minute walk from the station, is a light pink building with large glass windows welcoming passersby to stop and look in. Those who do are treated to the sight of a brightly lit refrigerator stocked with craft beer and cider for sale, as well as a standing bar offering the same on draft. Peering deeper into the store at the back, however, reveals an even greater surprise: a full-fledged beer brewery.
The brewery is Izumi Brewery and the taproom is Beer Cellar Tokyo, and both are owned and run by neighbourhood local, Shunsuke Izumi, an office “salaryman” during the week and professional brewer at the weekend. Both also recently celebrated their third year anniversary, a testament to their ever-abiding popularity with locals and traveling beer fans alike.
In order to understand Beer Cellar Tokyo’s cider story, we have to tell its beer history first. And that history begins some twenty years ago, when Izumi, then a university student, fell in love with craft beer after drinking a pale ale from Ishikawa Sake Brewery that simply blew his mind. “I was thunderstruck,” he says.
By 2015, Izumi was long working for a company in the biomedical pharmaceutical industry. While generally happy, he also felt he was missing something and wanted more -wanted to do more- and so enrolled himself in the American Brewers Guild Brewing School to learn beer brewing. That eventually led him to Portland, Oregon in the United States to apprentice with the now defunct The Commons Brewery, where he honed his brewing skills.
Upon returning home, Izumi was resolved to open his own brewery and found help through someone widely respected in Japan’s craft beer circles, Eiichi Aoki, an importer of craft beers from Portland who was also starting to handle beer making equipment. In 2017, the two visited Portland together to check out the latest breweries and their systems, and that’s when Aoki took him to Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider’s cidery and taproom. “There were so many ciders,” exclaims Izumi. “And all of them were different, all of them good. Thunderstruck number two!”
Later that year, with Aoki’s assistance, Izumi launched Beer Cellar Tokyo (modelled after Aoki’s original Beer Cellar Sapporo in Japan’s northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido) while at the same time constructing the brewery and its 5 bbl system, as well as waiting for the approval of his brewing license. When all was said and done, Beer Cellar Tokyo and Izumi Brewery were ready for business.
Beer Cellar Tokyo is managed by Keisuke Kimura and Takahiro Hirano, and has ten taps, four to five showcase Izumi’s own beers, four are for guest beers, and one is dedicated to cider. Prices vary depending on size and selection, but house beers usually run 650 yen for a medium, 900 yen for a large; imported guest beers average 850 yen for a medium, 1250 yen for a large. They also have, when they’re not sold out, sausages that you can buy to snack on while you drink.
If you are a beer enthusiast that knows your styles, it is amusing to note that Saisons are one of Izumi’s favourite kinds to brew, undoubtedly an influence from his days studying at The Commons Brewery as it was one of their hallmark styles. You can almost always find one or two on the taplist (and as someone who is fervently partial to Saisons, I can attest to the fact that Izumi’s are top notch). Saison is a beer style whose dry, carbonated, and fruity characteristics make it a complimentary cousin to ciders, which could also explain his interest in them.
Indeed, Izumi occasionally also makes ciders in the brewery, and often uses Saison yeast. Earlier in the year, too, he invited Takashi Oikawa of Moriyama-en in Aomori Prefecture to come down to work on a cider collaboration. Izumi has experimented with several different apple juice varieties and says he is actively continuing to seek out the combination that works best for him.
Before the coronavirus pandemic put close gatherings on hold, Beer Cellar Tokyo semi-regularly held cider tasting seminars for small groups. It was a great opportunity for people to learn about the ciders they had in stock and to try them before buying. Izumi hopes once the climate allows for such things to happen again, they will be able to resume.
Beer Cellar Tokyo is within equidistant walking distance of both Kitami and Komae Stations on the Odawara Odakyu Line, although from experience, I’d say the route from Kitami Station is the easier of the two. If you are ever near the area or close enough to make the trip, Beer Cellar Tokyo is worth the detour. It may be small and standing only, but it is the kind of place where you can go to relax and enjoy a few pints without the associated noise and crowd of a typical watering hole, and if you are in a hurry, you can easily pop in and grab what you need from the fridge or order a growler fill to go.
We love the literal neighbourhood feel of the place, of watching the varying sorts of people who come in whether it be alone or with friends, as couples (some with prams or children), or even a group of cyclists after finishing a long ride (perhaps along the Tama River which isn’t too far away).
Beer Cellar Tokyo is comfortable, casual, cordial, and highly recommended.
Beer Cellar Tokyo’s hours of operation:
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00〜20:00
Tuesday through Friday: 16:00〜21:00
BEER CELLAR TOKYO
〒201-0003 Tokyo, Komae, Izumihoncho 1-12-1 1F